Three brothers in rural Canada are betting crickets will be the next big item in the food world and that the insects will go a long way in helping solve world hunger.
Next Millennium Farms, located in the small town of Campbellford in southern Ontario, population 3,493, raises crickets and is the only farm of its kind in Canada and the first in North America.
There are more than 30 million of the insects nestled into rows of racks contained in a gigantic warehouse, just waiting to end up as a tasty morsel.
Darren Goldin, along with brothers Ryan and Jarrod, own the operation that began cricket production a little more than a year ago.
Darren already had cricket knowledge, raising them for pet food, when he read a United Nations report on population and projected food shortages.
The report praised crickets as a “healthy, nutritious alternative to mainstream staples such as chicken, pork, beef and even fish.”
Many of the insects, packed with protein, are made into flour that is sold to companies that use it in tortilla chips, muffins, energy bars and other products. Cricket flour sells for about $40 a pound.
The company also offers cricket snacks that can be ordered from the website under the “Bug Bistro” line – cooked crickets that come in three flavors: Moroccan, honey mustard and barbecue. They are bagged like potato chips, but in see-through packets.
If that doesn’t make you hungry for crickets, you are not alone. The farming of insects for human consumption is small in North America, about $25 million annually. Crickets are the main item.
But the demand is growing.
“We are seeing a steady increase in not only our cricket protein powders, but also for the whole roasted crickets,” said Ryan Goldin. “There are more companies that are beginning to create product that use the whole insect, such as chocolate covered, roasted as a garnish on salads, infused into trail mixes, etc.”
Ryan added that he isn’t worried about those with an aversion to eating insects like crickets.
“There is enough interest from people who already eat or who are interested in eating insects that the demand for our products is increasing,” he said. “There are already some restaurants offering insects on their menu.”
Raising crickets is economically viable and it leaves much less of a carbon footprint than more traditional fare.
A cricket needs two pounds of feed to produce one pound of meat. By comparison, hogs consume around five pounds of feed to produce one pound of pork. The heaviest eaters are cows. They require 10 to 15 pounds of feed to produce one pound of beef.
And the carnivores take up a lot more room in their raising than a cricket, and cost more to house and transport.
Crickets are also ready for market a short time after birth.
“It takes approximately six weeks from the time our cricket eggs hatch until they are at a size ready for harvest and processing,” Ryan said.
Then there is the water consumption, with insects drinking about a tenth of the amount of water that chickens, cows and hogs need to produce the same amount of protein.
Climate change, and with it drought, extreme temperatures, floods and other weather hazards have limited crop production and livestock, and the world is running out of space as human population increases and spreads, making less available land for farming, and depleting fish stocks.
The Goldins think crickets are the answer to the food dilemma.
“We believe that with the growing population and further strain on already tapped resources, people are going to have to turn to alternative forms of protein,” Ryan said. “Also important to note is that crickets have more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, high levels of B12, all nine essential amino acids and much more.”
Next Millennium Farms is just one of companies betting that insects, particularly crickets, will increase in popularity.
Tiny Farms in California and World Ento in Texas are amongst others. Ento is taken from entomophagy – the word for insect eating.
The Goldin brothers are betting that the number of geoentomarians, as defined by Next Millennium Farms, are the wave of the future. Geo (earth) entomo (insects) arian (person): “a person who consumes insect protein in order to drastically reduce his/her carbon footprint and contribute towarda (sic) the healing of the earth.”
In fact, Next Millennium Farms has a bold mission statement that defines the integral reason for the operations. “To make an important contribution in the feeding of an estimated world population of 9 billion people in 2050.”
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